Palm Sunday 2022, April 10th

The readings for today are Luke 19, 28-40 and Philippians 2, 1-11


The Pharisees said to Jesus, rebuke your disciples, the crowds who were celebrating his coming.

And Jesus replies “if they keep quiet, the stones themselves will cry out”

And yet, a few days later, the disciples are silent, the stones covered in the blood of a tortured and whipped Jesus.

Palm Sunday marks a strange beginning to Holy week. In some churches there is a tradition to read the whole of the passion narrative, there being a perhaps strange logic that the next time many will be in church will be Easter day, and so the whole of the Passion is missed. Yet it’s Holy week, a time, at the end of lent, to focus on the depth of love which Jesus’ suffering and death reveals to us. And so, we have our play on Wednesday, our Supper and communion on Maundy Thursday, our service on Good Friday. Times to reflect, times to listen to God, times to weep at humanities continual failure, but to rejoice too at God’s steadfast love for all the world, before we rejoice in the joy and message of Easter Day.

But the irony of Palm Sunday is not lost, of how cries of “Hosanna” can so quickly turn to “Crucify”. Was Jesus being deliberately provocative in riding into the city on a donkey, the words of Zechariah 9 no doubt echoing in many people’s minds at the time? ““Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion, shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.” Scripture fulfilled, the humble King entering Jerusalem. This passage is followed in Luke by the turning over of the tables in the Temple and Jesus’ outspoken words. More provocation for the religious authorities, and consequently, the Roman occupiers.


But the other side of the coin is that Jesus was taking his rightful place and was true to himself and his mission, for justice and peace. And when people don’t choose to hear what is good and right, they interpret such actions as provocation, because it interferes with their own agendas, their own self-centred or religion centred or state centred desires and aims, instead of being open to the message Jesus brings of love, justice, peace and equality. And the crucifixion which followed, to those people would seem like victory, in human terms. Death is final, the death of an assumed adversary, the victory.

But God’s love, God’s mercy and grace is not that thin, not that weak, and, of course, not human, and with the glory of resurrection God turns the selfish values of the world upside down,  forgives all for our failed humanity and overcomes death once and for all.

“The stones themselves will cry out”

Where are our voices, as disciples of Jesus? It is all too easy to sing Hosanna, to come to church and sing our hymns and say our words when things are good, to come on Palm Sunday and Easter Day and miss out the pain and pathos of the week between. But when the realities of the burdens of true justice, true love, true peace and complete equality are placed on trial in the court of everyday opinion, are we perhaps there crying Crucify, and letting them be nailed to the cross because they interfere with our own selfish or religious or even political desires and aims? Or do we absolve ourselves of responsibility, or fail to speak up in our shame, are we silent, allowing others to crucify all that is good whilst Jesus’ blood seeps inexorably into the silent stones at our feet.

If Palm Sunday and Holy Week teach us anything as Christians, we should do neither. Instead, as Paul says we should not be spectators at the crucifixion, we should be like Christ in every way. That great hymn about Christ we heard in Philippians is preceded by these words, I’ll read to you again

“ Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”

Having the mindset of Christ, having the same love, being one in Spirit and of one mind, valuing others above ourselves. We can only do that, individually and as a church, if we open ourselves to Christ, putting self aside, allowing the Holy Spirit to overcome our pride and our assumptions that we can do things on our own. For then we will experience the deepest love God blesses us with through Christ, the unity that is possible through Christ, and all those we spend time with will know that this is what we believe, that this is what we live for, and they too might experience Christ’s love through us.

And in time, more will come to shout “Hosanna”, less “Crucify”, none will be silent and even the stones will cry out “Blessed is the King….Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”.

As we cry Hosanna, so Jesus calls us, our proclaimed King, to be his disciples, to be like him, to fulfil his mission on earth, to proclaim his good news to all. This Holy week, and this year, may we live in faithfulness to his call.